Shanghai stampede: Public lacks safety awareness

Shanghai stampede: Public lacks safety awareness
Rescuers help victims of a stampede by New Year revellers on Shanghai's historic riverfront on January 1, 2015. A stampede by New Year's revellers in Shanghai's historic riverfront area killed 35 people and injured dozens more, the city government said January 1.

Public security and first aid experts said officials and the public need to raise their awareness of the potential risks in densely crowded places.

"For large activities such as New Year celebrations in downtown areas, risk assessment and response evaluation are very important. They should be conducted in advance so administrators can use them as a basis for appropriate safety measures," said Qin Liqiang, a professor at People's Public Security University of China, who researches security management at large public events.

"I'm unsure of the details of this accident, but it tells me that we need to strengthen the prior-assessment procedures, especially in places where people are likely to gather, and apply the measures strictly," he said.

He suggested the Shanghai administration may need to add more staff, and said volunteers may also be needed in some places to work with police and other security staff.

Experts: Public lacks safety awareness Shao Feng, director of the Chinese Red Cross National Training Center, said the tragedy reflected the relatively low public awareness of emergency response procedures.

The centre and its branches provide the public with training in emergency responses and first aid.

"We will conduct research and integrate stampede-response procedures into our training," he said.

"That could prevent accidental deaths, which in truth are preventable, and therefore it is very important for everyone."

The organisation mainly teaches the public how to respond to emergencies and disasters such as fire, earthquakes, and road accidents.

"More training about how to save lives should be arranged for students," Shao said.

Awareness of correct emergency responses remains relatively low in China, where only 1 per cent of the population has received training, he said.

Official statistics show that China has about 1.2 million emergencies every year, resulting in at least 200,000 deaths and 1.7 million serious injuries. "The culture of safety education is lacking among Chinese people. For example, do people read the safety notices when they stay in a hotel room?" Qin said.

In 2014, a nationwide survey about safety procedures in the event of fire found that awareness of the locations of safety exits and routes in crowded spaces was extremely low.

"People must learn some basic principles in case disasters occur in public places," Qin said.

"My first point is that it's better not to go to overcrowded places, but if you do, take extra care around areas such as steps, bridges, crossroads, and near large advertising hoardings, where stampedes are most likely to happen."

The stampede on the Bund occurred at steps near Chen Yi Square and at a nearby cross-road.

"Another essential is to have a good understanding of the safety routes or equipment when you go to an unfamiliar place. You should know the location of safe zones before joining the crowds," Qin said.

"However, I don't agree with canceling all large celebrations or events just because of one accident. 'Once bitten, twice shy' is not an appropriate response. What we need to do is learn the lessons," he said.

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